Shame on the ProsecutionAmid probing into the illegal diversion of election funds to the former ruling camp by the Korean intelligence agency, the prosecution suddenly announced that it will halt its investigation the politicians who received money. The decision adds to the puzzlement of the general public. Shin Seungnam, deputy prosecutor general of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office, “It seems like most politicians on the list of those who received funds from the National Security Planning Agency were not aware that money came from the agency. We decided not investigate them because their complicity cannot be determined. Legally, it is impossible to them return the money to the government.”
This sudden switch of direction is totally unexpected; until the previous day, the prosecution openly talked about probing the politicians in question, saying that their actions amounted to misappropriation of the national budget. By their decision, the prosecutors have disappointed the public, which wants results. Their change of position can be interpreted as an intention to wrap up case without more investigation.
From the outset, we expected the prosecutors start the case with a bang but end it with a whimper. Since the statute of limitations on political funding violations has expired, prosecutors’ claims that the case was a good one were exaggerated from the outset. The prosecution’s farfetched commentary about “acquisition of stolen goods” or “embezzlement from the national treasury” shows what happens when it runs out of logic. With no progress in the investigation and change in the facts, how can the prosecutors justify their decision to switch from looking into crime “disturbs national discipline” to stopping investigation altogether? The public has no whether to accept the legal interpretation of the matter, which swerved overnight from a possible return of the money to state coffers to the impossibility of such a return.
Of the political cases that the ruling party and the prosecution say were a disturbance to the nation’s discipline, none have been properly laid bare. It is no different this time around. The ruling party proclaimed that some scandals . the case in which the former ruling camp asked North Korea to stage a shootout to influence the presidential election in 1997, and tax evasion probes . constituted crimes that shake the fundamental discipline of the nation, but the investigations always wound down to unsatisfactory conclusions. Even the case in which opposition lawmakers broke down the door of the intelligence liaison officer’s room in the legislature was depicted as having disturbed the nation’s discipline.
The prosecution’s sudden change in direction has shaken the pretense of purity of purpose, strengthening the suspicion that the probe was launched to pressure the opposition. A series of prosecutors’ actions apparently had political purposes; the list of politicians who accepted money was leaked during the investigation and the prosecution hauled in an opposition party executive in a surprise arrest at dawn only to release him the following day. In particular, as the names of the current ruling camp figures who were not on the list are being brought up, along with the acting president of United Liberal Democrats, Kim Jonghoh, and former lawmaker Kim Yoonwhan, the prosecution has suddenly pulled back. Criticism is rising because the prosecution appears to have employed “hitandrun” tactics. This fiasco has eroded what little public confidence remained in the prosecution. The prosecution’s political neutrality, independence and reform are the most urgent tasks to be addressed.